Indiana Jones is one of the most beloved action franchises in the world. Since Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy and his many companions have traversed the globe, searching for the most priceless, and occasionally supernatural artifacts.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas drew much of their inspiration from childhood adventure serials when creating the world and aesthetics of Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, these serials pushed a lot of worldviews and tropes that have aged horribly, and many of those bled into Indiana Jones.
10 The White Savior Complex
For much of the series, Indy travels to places around the globe, being an outsider in cultures that are not his own. While educated enough to navigate, Indy never falls to xenophobic tropes and immerses himself in the customs of the people he is interacting with.
While the characterization of Indy is one of adaption and understanding, the depiction of many people of color in the films is deeply problematic. The village in The Temple of Doom is a perfect example of this. The imagery and performances of these peoples signal Indy as a white savior, an outsider who has come to fix the problems these non-white characters can't solve for themselves. While Indy never acts superior towards them, it is the visual cues that symbolize this trope.
9 Depiction Of The Hovitos
While some characters of color are depicted as helpless primitives, others are represented as wild savages that only a few can tame. The opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered by many to be one of the greatest sequences in all of cinema, and it definitely is. From the music to the staging of the action, it throws you into the world of Indiana Jones seamlessly.
But, the Hovitos, the indigenous tribe that Indy confronts at the end of the sequence, are nothing more than brown bodies for Indy to run from. Their savagery can only be tamed, and manipulated, by the villainous Belloq. It is a tired trope that reasonably has gone the way of the Dinosaur.
8 Disregard For Hindu Culture And Myths
Temple of Doom is the one film in the series that has aged the worst. From the previously mentioned White-Savior trope to the other sexist and racist aspects, Temple of Doom has become quite the minefield to navigate in our current landscape.
For instance, the depiction of Hindu religion was completely false. The goddess Kali was shown as a devilish goddess of death and destruction, one that would enable the Thuggee cult to take over the world. In reality, Kali is a goddess of change and empowerment. Taken an overwhelmingly positive goddess and turning her into an Indian Boogeyman is anything but culturally sensitive.
7 The Evil Asians Trope
Another god-awful The Temple of Doom utilizes is that of Yellow Peril. Originating in the late 1800s, Yellow Peril is the racist trope of having a manipulative criminal or political mastermind of Asian descent, often shown in a stereotypical lense. This archetype is all over Temple of Doom.
Obviously, Mola Ram, the priest of the Thuggee Cult, embodies this trope. His machiavellian schemes ring back to The Mandarin or Dr. No. Mola Ram isn't the only figure of this though, as Lao Che also fits this mold. His evil persona and hokey henchmen feel ripped out of a racist serial of the 1940s.
6 The Feast At Pankot Palace
Perhaps the most infamous moment though of all of Temple of Doom is the feast sequence at Pankot Palace. When Indy, Short Round, and Willie finally have a chance to dine with the Maharaja, the cuisine is anything but expects. Dishes included snake, beetle, eyeball soup, and of course, chilled monkey brains.
The assertion that this would be traditional Indian cuisine is absurd. In 2007, UN FAO statistics indicated that India ate less meat than any other country in the world. With a predominately vegetarian nation like India, it is hard to imagine them eating exoticized and exaggerated dishes like this
5 It Belongs In A Museum
"It belongs in a museum". This mantra by Dr. Jones was uttered in the opening moments of The Last Crusade during his search for the Cross of Coronado. The sentiment behind this catchphrase is commendable, as Indy is trying to preserve artifacts and save them from those who wish to profit off of them.
Sadly, the real-world context of this saying is nowhere near as cut and dry. Many countries and cultures have pushed back at this reasoning, pointing to colonialist efforts to take and house artifacts in the museums of Imperial powers. The British Museum in London, for example, has come under fire from multiple nations for housing artifacts that were essentially taken without permission during the UK's colonial era.
4 Yellow-Faced Nepalese Henchmen
This is perhaps the most blatantly racist move that Spielberg ever made in the Indiana Jones movie. When it comes to acting, a cardinal rule is not to portray someone of a race that is not your own. The worst example of this is Blackface, the cartoonish portrayal of African Americans. But this can apply to any race.
Yellowface also has an insidious history in Hollywood. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy has a run-in with some Nepalese henchmen at Marion's bar. One of them is played by Malcolm Weaver, a white stuntman. Covered in atrociously bad prosthetics, it is a shockingly racist example of yellowface.
Oh, Willie. While Marion Ravenwood provided a self-assured and independent female heroine, Willie Scott personified the worst tendencies of women in action cinema. From her constant shrieking, fear of creepy crawlies, and the opinion from the men around her, Willie represents an outdated stereotype that most audiences today would never accept.
While she has a lot of loveable comedic moments, much of her characterization is steeped in problematic tropes. All the men around her characterize her as inept or shrill (until they want to sleep with her). Even the final shot of her toes the line of coercion, as Indy grabs her with her whip after denying his advances. It's beyond outdated.
2 Indy, Elsa, And Henry Jones Sr.
Elsa is one of the most intriguing female leads in all of the Indy movies. Out of all of them, she is the only villain. Similarly self-assured and independent to Marion, she differs in her selfishness and villainy. While her characterization is up for debate, it is a specific choice as to her sexual habits that don't sit well with many.
As inferred in The Last Crusade, Elsa slept with both Indy and his father. While it's certainly not a criminal act, it is certainly awkward (and not really in a fun way). It feels like a callback to Sean Connery's womanizing days as James Bond, but it toes a weird nearly incestuous line when Indy gets involved. Not to mention the age gap between the two is questionable at best.
1 Indy And Marion's Origins
In Raiders of the Lost Arc, there is a frightening implication in Indy and Marion's relationship. In the film, she claims that she was just a child when she and Indy's relationship began. In the context of the film, she might just be hyperbolic. But, looking at the intention of the filmmakers, it might be shockingly literal.
In production notes, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg have a conversation that would make any decent person's skin crawl. You can read the full transcript here, but the gist is that Marion might have been as young as twelve years old when Indy would have been twenty-five. The fact of the matter is that no matter what, the age gap is in their relationship is shockingly wide if not illegal.